Alex Ostler-Beech, aged 44 from Hull, and Ulrik Nielsen, aged 57 of Gentofte, Denmark, both pleaded guilty to the charge at a hearing in Inner London Court on Wednesday (October 26).
Three men had been charged with fraud offences for allegedly conspiring to sell horsemeat as beef. They were charged following an investigation into how food products became adulterated with horsemeat by the City of London Police.
The charges detailed that the three of them between January 1 2012 and October 31 2012 conspired together, and with others, to defraud purchasers of goods that contained, wholly or in part, a mixture of beef and horsemeat, by dishonestly arranging for beef and horsemeat to be combined for sale as beef.
The third defendant in the case, Andronicos Sideras, 54, from London, pleaded not guilty and will face trial. Both Ostler-Beech and Nielsen will be sentenced after this case.
Complex international criminal investigation
The charges followed a complex international criminal investigation that saw the City of London Police, which is the national policing lead for fraud, working in partnership with the Food Standards Agency and Crown Prosecution Service, as well as law enforcement agencies from across the UK and Europe.
City of London Police detectives first arrested Ostler-Beech in Hull and Sideras in London in July 2013.
In August, Nielsen was also interviewed under caution in Hull along with a 52-year-old man.
The 52-year-old man was released with no further action.
Andy Morling, head of the Food Crime unit at the Food Standards Agency took to Twitter to welcome the news. He said: “Two early guilty pleas a reflection of the solid investigation”.
Dominic Watkins, a partner at law firm DWF and expert on food fraud, said food fraud was complicated crime to investigate.
“It is complex to work through the supply chain," said Watkins. "It is good to see these cases being brought.”
Watkins, who spoke at Food Manufacture’s food safety conference ‘Boosting consumer confidence in times of change’, held earlier this month (October 13) in London, said that many cases prosecuted tended to be for traceability and record keeping failings rather than specifically for fraud.
“It is reassuring the prosecutions are taking place,” he said. “It is reassuring and significant that they have chosen to plead guilty to fraud,”